Posted February 20, 2012 by

Productivity Gains by Employers Bogus As Huge Contingent Workforce Ignored

Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin of CareerXroadsBy Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler

A very well-written article in MIT’s Technology Review, “Tectonic Shifts in Employment’, contends that Information Technology is reducing the need for certain jobs faster than new ones are being created. Noting that, “6.3 million fewer Americans have jobs than was true at the end of 2007. And yet the country’s economic output is higher today than it was before the financial crisis.”

The MIT article admits several elements are in play but claims that technological obsolescence is the predominant factor. A similar case was made in Bloomberg Businessweek, Did That Robot Take My Job? at the beginning of the year. There’s no question that technology destroys jobs (and creates new ones) but is the gap as wide as these articles suggest?

We’re not sure.

We think the use of contingent workers, for example, has increased to astounding levels and the accounting of this headcount is almost non-existent within companies when it comes to calculating productivity from F/T. As a result, firms show productivity spikes when in fact they may be using as much or more labor to accomplish their goals.

We’re also concerned about unmeasured anecdotal evidence surfacing where well-known large companies consciously ratchet their performance technology tools to push individual workers (in the service/exempt classification) to unsustainable levels i.e. burning them out by forcing them to work longer hours to meet quotas etc. (And no, we are not talking about some other country here perhaps someone has been adopting a few developing country techniques here.) These onerous practices are similar to what we used to study in grad school as abuses from the 2nd industrial revolution, 1880-1920, that led to the rise of unions.

It makes us think some of the productivity gains we report might just be sleight of hand.

– Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler work full time consulting, educating and discovering how talent and opportunity connect through emerging technology. They can be reached via email at mmc@careerxroads.com, phone at 732-821-6652, or on-line at http://www.careerxroads.com.

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